Tuesday, March 10, 2009
USS Savannah (CL-42)
Figure 1: USS Savannah (CL-42) making a full power run during trials off Rockland, Maine, in February 1938. Courtesy of Captain Church Chappell, USN (Retired), 1975. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Savannah (CL-42) entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, during her shakedown cruise, 20 May 1938. Note her signal flags, displaying the call letters "NAQL". Courtesy of Louis A. Davidson, 1977. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Savannah (CL-42) steaming at sea, circa early 1943. This photograph has been retouched by the wartime censor to remove radar antennas atop her masts and main battery gun directors. However, the radar antennas mounted on her secondary battery gun directors remain visible. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Savannah (CL-42) off New York City, with a barge and tug alongside, 1 May 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Algiers, Algeria, with two “Liberty Ships” on fire in Algiers harbor, following a German air attack, 16 July 1943. USS Savannah (CL-42) is in the foreground. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Savannah (CL-42) is hit by a German radio-controlled bomb while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. The bomb hit the top of the ship's number three 6-inch gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before exploding. The photograph shows the explosion venting through the top of the turret and also through Savannah's hull below the waterline. A motor torpedo boat (PT) is passing by in the foreground. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral H. Kent Hewett, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Savannah (CL-42) on fire immediately after she was hit by a German guided bomb during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. Smoke is pouring from the bomb's impact hole atop the ship's number three 6-inch gun turret. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Savannah (CL-42) on fire and beginning to settle by the bow, very soon after she was hit by a German guided bomb during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. The bomb penetrated the top of the ship's number three 6-inch gun turret, which is in the center of this photograph with smoke over it. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Savannah (CL-42) crewmen fighting fires in the ship's number three six-inch gun turret, after it was hit by a German guided bomb during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. Note fully-equipped life rafts stowed atop the turret, and casualties laid out on deck alongside the number 2 turret. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: USS Savannah (CL-42) bomb penetration hole atop her number three 6-inch gun turret, while the ship was undergoing initial repairs off Salerno, Italy. She was hit by a German radio-controlled bomb on 11 September 1943, during the Salerno operation. Note life rafts atop the turret, one of which has been cut in two by the bomb. Also note the turret's armored faceplate. View looks forward, with number two 6-inch gun turret in the immediate background. The original photo caption, released on 2 November 1943, reads (in part): "A round, clean hole marks the point of entry of a Nazi bomb on the cruiser Savannah. Inside, all was chaos, smoke, blood, and death." Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: USS Savannah (CL-42) off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 5 September 1944, following battle damage repairs and modernization. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: USS Savannah (CL-42) photographed from a blimp of squadron ZP-11, while underway off the New England coast (position 42-30N, 68-36W) on 30 October 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: Starboard bow view of USS Savannah (CL-42) while steaming in the Savannah River, Savannah, Georgia, while attending Navy Day celebrations on or about 27 October 1945. US Navy photo. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a large city in Georgia, USS Savannah (CL-42) was a 9,475-ton Brooklyn class light cruiser that was built by the New York Shipbuilding Association at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 10 March 1938. Savannah was approximately 608 feet long and 69 feet wide, had a top speed of 32 knots, and had a crew of 868 officers and men. The ship was armed with fifteen 6-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and various smaller caliber antiaircraft weapons.
After a shakedown cruise to Cuba and Haiti, Savannah left for Portsmouth, England, on 26 September 1938 and arrived there 4 October. Her primary mission was to protect American nationals in Europe during the Munich crisis. But war was temporarily averted after the infamous agreement was reached at Munich, so Savannah returned to the United States. Following her return to America, Savannah took part in several naval exercises and then steamed through the Panama Canal to join the US Pacific Fleet. She operated along the West Coast and around the Hawaiian Islands until May 1941. She then was sent back to the Atlantic to take part in various “Neutrality Patrols,” which lasted until America was attacked on 7 December 1941.
Savannah spent her entire wartime career in the Atlantic theater of operations. She patrolled along America’s East Coast and in the Caribbean for most of 1942 and then participated in the invasion of French Morocco in November. She provided gunfire support for the US Army troops that were landing as part of “Operation Torch” and managed to destroy several French artillery batteries that were firing at American warships and landing craft. After hostilities ended in Morocco on 11 November 1942, Savannah was ordered to return to Norfolk, Virginia.
On 25 December 1942, Savannah joined the South Atlantic Patrol, whose primary function was to hunt down German blockade runners. On 11 March 1943, Savannah, along with the destroyer USS Eberle and the escort carrier USS Santee, cornered the German blockade runner Kota Tjandi. Both Eberle and Savannah fired warning shots across the bow of Kota Tjandi and the German blockade runner soon came to a halt. The German crewmen quickly escaped in their lifeboats as a boarding party from Eberle was sent over by boat to the German ship. Unfortunately, as the boarding party from Eberle reached the side of the Kota Tjandi, powerful scuttling charges that were planted by the German crew exploded. Eleven US sailors were killed in the blast, but a boat from Savannah rescued three others who were blown into the water. The German ship sank and Savannah picked up the 72 Germans who had abandoned the blockade runner in their lifeboats. The cruiser returned to New York on 28 March and was overhauled in preparation for an assignment in the Mediterranean.
In July and August 1943, Savannah provided gunfire support for the invasion of Sicily and in September assisted in the Allied landings at Salerno. On 11 September 1943 while steaming off the coast of Salerno, a radio-controlled glide bomb that was released by a high-flying German bomber hit Savannah. The bomb penetrated the armored roof of the number 3 gun turret, sliced through three decks and stopped in a lower handling room where it exploded, blowing a large hole in the bottom of the ship and tearing open some seams in the ship’s port side. For approximately half an hour, secondary explosions in the gun room delayed fire-fighting efforts by the crew. Fires ravaged the forward part of the ship, but the crew quickly sealed off flooded and burned out compartments. Although the ship began to list, damage control parties soon corrected this and, with the help of the tugs Hopi and Moreno, Savannah was assisted to Valletta, Malta, for temporary repairs. It was one of the first times in naval history that a warship was hit and seriously damaged by a radio-controlled bomb from an aircraft. The explosion and resulting fires killed 197 men and badly wounded 15 others.
Savannah was eventually able to leave the Mediterranean under her own power and in December 1943 arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for more permanent repairs. She underwent a major overhaul that lasted eight months. Her battle damage was repaired, her hull was widened, her 5-inch secondary battery was completely replaced, and new antiaircraft batteries were installed. All of Savannah’s repairs and modifications were completed on 4 September 1944 and by 10 September she began a shakedown and training cruise. After some training exercises, Savannah escorted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to and from the Yalta Conference in January and February 1945. After this momentous trip, Savannah spent the rest of the war as a training ship. She then made two trans-Atlantic trips to bring home American service personnel from Europe in late 1945 after the war ended. The ship was inactive for all of 1946 and was formally decommissioned on 3 February 1947. Savannah remained a part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1 March 1959, when she was finally stricken from the Navy list. She was sold for scrapping in January 1960.
Although USS Savannah had a notable and distinguished career, she also had the dubious honor of being one of the first warships in history to be seriously damaged by an air-launched radio-controlled bomb. Today laser-guided bombs are common with navies and air forces throughout the world, but in 1943 radio-controlled bombs represented the cutting edge of military technology.
Posted by Remo at 8:30 AM